The new series of Merlin started three weeks ago, and we tuned in (on iPlayer) with anticipation. I’m not going to lie – you don’t watch Merlin for the brilliant graphics, or to learn something new about the way that Camelot and the Arthurian legends played out. The interpretation of the legends is pretty straightforward – but what this adaptation does bring to the screen is a refreshing youth that is not associated with the tales of old in the way you would expect.
The first few series surround Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and Merlin (Colin Morgan), and his man-servant, a young man who is hiding his magic from the Kingdom as it is highly forbidden. The story has been slow to develop up till the most recent series – Lady Guinevere (Angel Coulby), Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) and some of the other most well-loved names and faces in the story are slow to appear, and there are a lot of ‘busy’ episodes – episodes where Merlin is fighting beasts and other nasties without any actual plot development. This is hilarious in itself – the dragon, voiced by John Hurt, is definitely one of my favourite characters, and these busy episodes don’t necessarily detract from the series. King Uther (Anthony Head) is also a character that you love to hate, and adds a huge amount to the show.
The new series sees the beginning of the Arthurian legends. We’ve skipped three years since the end of the last series – Arthur is now King, and although Merlin is still a young man, the old wizard of old has made an appearance as an alter-ego of Merlin, who is a known sorcerer and has got Arthur and his Knights out of a fair fewscrapes. The Knights and Merlin are in the wild searching for Lady Morgana (Katie McGrath), while Guinevere (Gwen) is back at Camelot ruling in Arthur’s place.
Plot development seems pretty rapid at this stage, and there are some new beasts and creatures that are fairly amusing. The last episode I watched had some big ‘sperm’ creature in it – kind of a cross between a ghost, a cone-head and something out of Dr Who. A new dragon has made an appearance and Arthur is still blissfully unaware of Merlin’s magic, despite having been saved a number of times already.
There’s some confusion over the plot – an old druid has given Merlin some clues as to who is going to be the Big Bad in this series, but this character appears to be Arthur’s saviour, while some of the best-loved characters start to have shady, nastier aspects to their personality. The first episode seemed to be a cross between Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, and we were constantly making comparisons to other series.
However, despite all of this, there is something that draws me to the series. The dynamic between Merlin and Arthur is hilarious. I love the characters because I have been watching from the beginning – in fact, we used to do “Merlin Night” parties at each other’s houses during term-time; a good excuse to watch TV and get drunk when we got bored of clubbing. You definitely want to watch this with friends. It’s always interesting to see how the series is going to progress –whether in a positive or negative direction, it’s definitely an entertaining thing to watch.